The Story of Ty Wigginton was Never Ty Wigginton

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled about Ty Wigginton. For example, whether he was the worst Cardinal in years, or whether Cardinal fans were petty for obsessing on the value of their 25th man. But it focuses less on what really is disturbing about Ty Wigginton, St. Louis Cardinal. The really story here is not about how down the fans were on him, or how epically terrible he has been in a tiny sample of plate appearances.

The real mystery has been the odd treatment of Wigginton by professionals.

The Narrative of What Went Wrong

Many odd statements have been made about what went wrong with the Wigginton signing.

1. Matt Adams' sudden emergence this year ate into Wigginton's playing time.

"Coming out of spring training, Matt Adams identified himself as someobdy we were going to have to get at-bats for. Subsequently, Ty was low man on the totem pole."-John Mozeliak

This statement is compelling, except for the fact that even if Matt Adams was not on the team, it is unclear where Wigginton would play. Was he supposed to play first when Craig was in the OF? Oh, and Wigginton was signed to be a righthanded bat off the bench, and Adams is lefthanded. And Adams emerged last year, when he had a .986 OPS in AAA, not this year in spring training.

This argument gets really odd, such as Jeff Gordon arguing that Adams' emergence forced Wigginton into the role of late game pinch hitter, a job he was not suited for.

In fact, when Wigginton was signed, he was signed to be a late game pinch hitter, as Mozeliak noted on December 15 "We were looking for righthanded power for late in the game."

2. If Wigginton had more at bats, he would have hit better.

"Hitting big league pitching is difficult. Consistently hitting big league pitching in sporadic plate appearances is extremely difficult. Just ask poor Ty Wigginton, who didn't have a hit after June 7 and was released Tuesday (July 9)."-Jeff Gordon

This makes sense, on face value. But it ignores inconvenient facts such as in fairly regular playing time in spring training, Wigginton had an OPS of .403. It also ignores that fact that Wigginton has been a poor hitter in regular playing time for years.

3. Wigginton needed more time to adjust to his new role as a bench player

Wigginton was a bench player for the second half of 2012, during which he had a mighty OPS of .613 in 99 plate appearances. He has now been a bench player for a year, and a bad one.

The Narrative of the Valuable Clubhouse Guy

"I know that gets people up in arms because they want to keep throwing statistics around. I don't care. I know what happens in our clubhouse. It happens because you have the right kind of people that are making an impact on other people."-Mike Matheny

The clubhouse argument is unassailable in the sense that we as outsiders can never know what he contributes in the clubhouse. But let's concede that there are players who add value by their clubhouse presence, helping out the kids, setting an example by playing the game correctly, practicing diligently, not showing up to play hung over, putting their pants on the right way, etc. If so, one would suppose that they would end to end up on winning teams, because this value would help the teams win, and good teams do a good job of identifying players who add value.

However, a look at Wigginton's career, where he has moved from bad team to bad team, does not give evidence that he drives teams to success or has been identified by good teams as someone who adds value.

His career, really, is remarkable in terms on the quality of teams he has played for. In the first 11 years of his career, he has been a member of 7 teams that have lost 90 or more games, and three more that lost 89. If Ty Wigginton has some magical clubhouse quality that adds significant value, it has apparently eluded identification by good teams for 11 years.

I'm not saying he is not a valuable clubhouse guy. Maybe he is, despite it leaving no clear trail. But even then, one would think a valuable clubhouse guy who could play good baseball would help more. And how much influence does someone playing poorly have on other players? Do rookies want to emulate the guy hitting .160?

Why I Care About Ty Wigginton

I don't hate Ty Wigginton. He has had a decent major league career--I would be thrilled to have had a career as good as his as a major league ballplayer. I have no reason to believe he is not a great guy, and the tiny sample of plate appearances he had this year say little about him. I hope he gets signed and has a nice second half somewhere.

I care about Ty Wigginton mainly because of two things:

1. I am still confounded by the thought process that went into signing him. It's not Ty Wigginton that was the problem. The problem is, I think highly of John Mozeliak. I think he is bright. He is talented. He has a great track record. He knows all sorts of things about baseball I will never know. I admire John Mozeliak. But I simply can't reconcile "John Mozeliak knows a lot more about baseball than I do" with "John Mozeliak decided to sign Ty Wigginton to two years and $5 million." These statements just cannot exist in the same reality. They did not coexist well on December 15th, 2012, and they coexist less well now.

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2. In a similar light, I don't understand all of the weird statements made by professionals in baseball and the media about Ty Wigginton, St. Louis Cardinal, that have little basis in reality.

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